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Murston mum says she faced £500 a week taxi bill to send her daughter to school

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A mum-of-four says she had to keep her eldest daughter away from school for three months because she couldn't afford the taxi fares.

Carol Angus, 32, says her 12-year-old girl Caitlyn was due to start Grange Park School in Sevenoaks 30 miles away from their home in September, but she only began lessons this week.

Murston mum Carol Angus says she had to keep her 12-year-old daughter from school for three months because she couldn't afford afford the taxi fares
Murston mum Carol Angus says she had to keep her 12-year-old daughter from school for three months because she couldn't afford afford the taxi fares

Ms Angus, who lives in Tonge Road, Murston, Sittingbourne, says Kent County Council wouldn't pay the fees upfront and says she was told to pay them herself and claim them back.

She said: "I was told the taxi fare is £50 each way. That's £100 a day or £500 a week. How could I find that sort of money?"

She says her next eldest child, her son Bobby, 11, is hoping to go to The Orchard School in Canterbury which caters for 83 pupils who have behaviour and learning difficulties and will need his travel arrangements paid as well.

She said: "KCC says it normally takes six weeks to sort out travel arrangements but it has taken three months. Paying for two children would have cost me £1,000 a week."

Caitlyn, who suffers from ADHD and autism, was permanently excluded from The Sittingbourne School after one-and-a-half weeks and had not been to school for 18 months, prior to getting a place at the new school in Sevenoaks.

Murston mum Carol Angus with her four children
Murston mum Carol Angus with her four children

Her mum said: "I tried teaching her at home but I suffered a stroke six months ago and lost the use of my left side."

They tried a private tutor but Caitlyn "struggled to engage" over Zoom during the Covid lockdowns. The only school she said she wanted to go to was Grange Park which teaches autistic children.

Ms Angus said: "No child should go without schooling. It's so unfair. Caitlyn is 12 but has the same reading age of my six-year-old."

Since posting her predicament on social media she discovered 14 other families in Sittingbourne were in a similar situation.

She said: "It's not just about the taxi fares. It's the tip of the iceberg. There are not enough places for children with special education needs in the area.

"Primary schools are doing their best but they don't always have the right support. My daughter had a horrific experience at school. She was rarely in class towards the end and her teachers didn't know how to understand her. She gets very anxious and can be verbally aggressive.

"Teachers need to be given the tools to cope. I even emailed Gavin Williamson, the former secretary of state for education, about my daughter but he didn't help. I'm very angry.

"Everyone deserves an education. I don't think people fully understand the implications of being a parent with an SEN child."

Swale ward councillor James Hall (Ind Alliance, Murston) took up her case and on Saturday Ms Angus received an email from KCC saying a taxi firm had been employed and Caitlyn could start school on Tuesday.

KCC has apologised for the delay and in a letter to Cllr Hall said staff had been working hard to get through all the applications.

Cllr James Hall. Picture: Swale council
Cllr James Hall. Picture: Swale council

It said: "Due to the current (taxi) driver shortages, this is proving to be a longer process than would be normally expected."

It confirmed Ms Angus had been offered the option of a Personal Transport Budget to allow her to make her own arrangements to get her children to school and added: "Alternatively, KCC will refund any additional expenses that Ms Angus incurs in making her own arrangements outside our published six-week application time-scale until transport can be provided. This will take the form of a mileage allowance."

Cllr Hall said: "It makes me wonder how many others are in this situation."

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